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The Current State Of The Design Industry As We Manage Delays Caused By A Global Pandemic

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

Many of you who are loyal readers of Lux Living Weekly blog will most likely know that I founded and run a very active and vibrant design community that includes a Facebook Group, an online Forum, mentoring services and resources for other designers. This means that I get to hear stories from over 5000 designers located in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, Africa, The Caribbean, and many other parts of the world


Stories ranging from the good things that happen everyday, the amazing projects we get to work on and the wonderful clients who understand the value of working with a design professional. We actually have a "Friday Victory Post" where each Friday designers are invited to post about the great things that happened in their businesses in the past week.


But we also, talk about some of the pitfalls and disappointments. We allow each other to vent without any judgement, because we can all relate that interior design is not always the glamorous job that people think.


When you see a good designer who does excellent work, make no mistake that she/he is working hard, and long hours behind the scenes. We take our work personally, because it is not just a vocation for us; it is a part of our identities.





We provide support to each other in a job that can honestly sometimes be a thankless job. The misconceptions about what we do as interior designers still run rampant thanks to reality shows on TV. A lot of consumers still don't have a very good understanding of the design world, and so we are tasked with educating our consumers one by one. Most see the ugly befores and then the fabulous afters, and don't know what happens in between. It looks like magic!


The reality is that we run a business, and all the usual pain points of managing any business are a reality for us too - added to that is the fact that we also must manage people and communicate very well with all types of personalities. Unlike any other job in the world, designers end up spending a lot of time with their clients, very intimate time - sometimes up to 2 years on new builds. We really get up close and personal with them as individuals. Clients have financial and emotional investments in their project, plus other factors including differences of opinions, styles and tastes with their spouses, and as designers, we must be very skilled in managing those nuances and managing everyone's expectations, and arrive at the best end result.


We are often the front line of an entire project, which means that anything that goes wrong will fall on the shoulder of the designer. On any given project, a designer is managing their internal team, the design work and products involved, third party professionals they may have outsourced some of the work to, architects and building designers, engineers, the city permitting department, contractors and subcontractors, product vendors, sales representatives at showrooms, fabricators and artisans, workrooms, freight and logistics companies, receiving warehouses and their team, the financial and budget aspects, and of course the clients and their family. Each of these relationships and tasks require excellent communication skills for a project to be completed successfully


.......And this is on a good day.


Now, let's add a global pandemic into the mix and really put designers to the test.


Some of the stories I have been hearing from other designers worldwide are about their clients not understanding the delays that we are faced with now. Some of it could be due to the designers not communicating this very well, and not managing expectations, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that as humans, we want what we want and we want it now. And of course, we as designers and consumers ourselves, understand this. Designers want the same thing for their clients. We hate delays more than clients do, trust me! So that is an indication that it is likely not your designer that is causing the delay, and some patience is needed in these covid times. Our livelihoods and reputations depend on successfully completing projects.


Of course if your designer is not forthcoming and responsive, you should speak up, but if he/she is doing their best and communicating to you along the way, believe that it is the truth.





Here is just a glimpse of what's going on in the design world as it relates to the delays caused by covid:


**In the very beginning - back in March/April, many of our vendors were bracing for the worse. Just like in my design firm, we were expecting to see a decline in business, which didn't end up happening, vendors thought the same thing too. They obviously did not want to order product and then end up with a warehouse full of products that they cannot sell. So they cancelled or downsized some of their orders from their suppliers overseas. Well fast forward a few months and the complete opposite happened. We were busier than ever as consumers grew a bit weary with their surroundings and were looking to design their homes. The demand outpaced the supply and that created shortages, and a part of the reason why we are seeing so many backorders.


**The solution may seem obvious - well let's only buy products made in the USA. The reality is that products made in the US still require parts and pieces made overseas


**Suppliers of furniture and parts made overseas are running into difficulty getting shipping containers, or containers are being left behind at the last minute, because of delays due to smaller work crews. Their workers are either home sick or they are still on lockdowns. We had a situation earlier this year, where the container arrived here from Mexico and had to be rerouted back because there were lockdowns at customs.


**Suppliers of furniture made here in the US are also working with smaller crews because workers are sick or had to be quarantined, or they may be located in a state that is on lockdown and not considered essential. We have been getting letters from some of our vendors located in California about not being able to ship, or the freight companies picked up but they are on lockdown or operating with much smaller crews


**Same with freight companies. When they pickup your goods from the vendors' locations, they don't just get on the road and head to the end user. There are a lot of stops in between. Products coming from the West Coast to Texas, for example, the freight company picks up and then takes the products to their terminal at some mid point, which then gets picked up by a subcontracted freight carrier, and taken to the receiving warehouse designated by the designer who ordered the product. It therefore means that because there are so many touch points in the process and people involved, covid has had an impact. Many freight companies are running on a very slim crew, and don't forget that they will not get on the road unless their trucks are full. This is also an industry that is heavily regulated, and that in itself was already a bit of an issue, and even more so now with covid. We are also seeing more damaged products arriving as a result. Smaller crews mean they are trying to pick up the slack somehow to keep up with the demand, and that could manifest itself in undertrained crew members and overpacking of trucks. All these issues trickle right down to the designer who now has to come up with solutions for their client.


**There are severe backlogs from the time we place an order with our vendors to when they even get processed. Much of their staff are still working from home with limited access to resources, which slows down their work. Some are back at work but they are still trying to handle the backlog from earlier this year. We are seeing more than a 4 week delay on custom upholstery, for example.


**In some cases we are not being given accurate information. Vendors are getting these calls about delays left and right that they have grown weary and may embellish the truth just a bit. That's never the solution but I am sure it is frustrating for them. For example, this past week I called to check on some light fixtures that were on backorder and supposed to come in that week. One young lady told me they shipped, and by the time I called back the following day about something else, I was told they are further pushed out a few more weeks. It could be one of two things - the first person embellished the truth a bit, or the backorder got further delayed, which is a major reality. When we are told an item is on backorder, we are given an estimated date it will be in - that date is not set in stone and could change, and these days, will most likely change.


**An upholstery piece for example, may be showing in stock, but the fabric selected may not be. Typically upholstery vendors stock the frame of the chairs, sofas, sectionals and the piece is then built with the cushion type and fabric selected when it's ordered. There are several people touching that one piece and if they are operating with a skeleton crew, that will obviously impact how quickly they will get pieces out the door


**Contractors are busier than ever, and it is very difficult to schedule when they themselves don't always have a good handle on their schedules. We love our contractors, and nothing negative against them, but they are not known for their strong business acumen. It takes weeks and several followup messages to even get an estimate in some cases. They are also faced with their subs getting sick, which is affecting their workload. And add into the mix the fact that they are in such high demand, their prices went up along with that. There are also price increases on raw materials and supplies.


**Delays with obtaining permits from local municipalities for new builds and remodels are rigorous these days. Many of the staff are still working from home, applications are having to be submitted online, and of course there are backlogs they are dealing with as well. A process that would normally take a week or two is now taking several weeks. There is typically no one to talk to in their offices and all one can do is wait. Permits being delayed causes scheduling of contractors and trades to be delayed - in most cases, they have moved on to other jobs, adding more delays.




This post is meant to give you an inside peek into what is going on in the design world.


I ask that you go easy on your designer and contractor. They might be feeling just a bit of the stress of managing not just your project in these trying times, but several others. When you think about how many pieces make up the puzzle of one project, much less several simultaneously, you will begin to understand just what we are up against with covid delays. I am thankful that my clients have been very patient through all of this, but my fear is that it could get worse before it gets better.


Don't forget that you designer wants nothing more than to give you your dream home. Their reputation and livelihood are directly tied to that. You can absolutely ask for straight forward answers and clear communication, but please be prepared that you may not like the answers you get. The truth is that we all need to be very patient in these times. Just look forward to the beautiful space you are bound to get when it's all over.


Here at Casa Vilora Interiors, we are committed to providing you with the most accurate information about delays right from the start. But we ask that you understand that things change daily, and what was true yesterday, may not be today.


We have strong relationships with our vendors and support team, and they look out for us as we do them. Please know that we are all doing our best to get you your dream home. We will always bring great solutions to the table. Our number one goal is your ultimate satisfaction and happiness with the result. You are in great hands with us.


If you are ready to discuss your project, schedule a Discovery Call and let's talk about it


Wishing You Beauty And Inspiration,


Veronica

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